Randy Newman: My Life in 15 Songs

Here's how a comic genius built one of American music's greatest catalogs

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"Mama Told Me Not to Come"

Eric Burdon [of the Animals] recorded this in 1966. It's a guy going to a party, and he's a little scared. The first line ["Will you have whiskey with your water/Or sugar with your tea"] was a vague connection to acid. I don't remember being thrown off by that stuff then. If I was that unsophisticated – which is possible – I wouldn't admit it. The piano lick is what kicked it off. Three Dog Night made the song a hit [in 1971], but I didn't make a lot of money. Maybe I was behind [on publishing advances]. I remember getting a check for $6000. I said, "Where's the rest?" They said, "Well, you know..."

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